Keegan Cryder had never played center in his football career — not even as a little kid.
But as the University of Wyoming enters the final two weeks of spring practice, Cryder is on pace to be the Cowboys’ starting center this season.
“His assignments have been on point, but his snapping is little erratic at times,” fifth-year coach Craig Bohl said.
“He’s making progress, and we’ve been pleased so far. He has a lot of ability. He’s really strong, has good feet and good lower body strength.”
Cryder was recruited to UW as a tackle out of Dakota Ridge High in Littleton, Colorado.
Cryder redshirted last season as a true freshman, where he took reps at both tackle and guard.
UW offensive line coach Scott Fuchs is a strong proponent of having all of his inside linemen know how to snap. He also likes to experiment in the spring to see how guys respond at different positions.
“There’s still growing pains, but I’ve been pretty impressed with what he’s been able to do right now,” Fuchs said.
When Cryder found out over the winter he was going to get a look at center this spring, he went to work right away.
“(The move to center) was out of left field, for sure, but I was like, ‘OK, let’s do this,’” Cryder said. “I started watching Roullier film for hours and worked on snaps as often as I could.”
Cryder is referring to former UW center Chase Roullier, who moved from guard to center his senior year in 2016. Roullier was a sixth-round draft pick by the Washington Redskins in 2017. Roullier made seven starts and played in 13 games as a rookie.
Cryder and redshirt freshman Patrick Arnold have taken all of the center snaps this spring. Sophomore Logan Harris of Torrington started all 13 games at center last season, but he’s been moved to guard, and it looks like he will stay there.
Harris and redshirt freshman Eric Abojei are competing with a pair of veterans at guard this spring in senior Kaden Jackson and junior Gavin Rush.
Rush got a lot of looks at center last spring, so with guys like him and Harris, along with a veteran like Jackson, who has played in 35 games and made 26 starts, Cryder has a lot of teammates to turn to when he needs help.
Cryder is a civil engineering major, and he quickly realized there is a correlation between his coursework and playing center.
“It is a very mental position, just as much or more than it is physical,” he said. “You have to know a lot. If you have a really smart center, he can fix a lot of problems at the line of scrimmage. (The coaches) felt I could handle the mental pressure.”
Cryder’s right hand — his snapping hand — has taken a beating so far this spring. He said he can’t wear a glove because he can’t get a secure grip on the football. Still, he likes the move and also the experimentation with players throughout the offensive line.
“I love the challenge, and I love learning a new position,” he said. “It has helped me be a better football player and understand football more in that sense.
“(Pat and I) are working hard at center. There’s a competition there, but I love that, too. I love working hard.”
UW’s 10th practice of spring drills is this afternoon. The team also will practice Thursday afternoon and Saturday, which will include its second scrimmage. That scrimmage is closed to the public and media.